Forgive Tim Friedman if it takes a while for it to sink in that he now has the coolest job in the world. The 32-year-old is the new owner of Toledo’s Culture Clash Records.
Friedman, of Perrysburg, reached terms to purchase the 4020 Secor Rd. store recently with Marcia O’Connor, widow of longtime record store owner Pat O’Connor, who died in December. The two first discussed the future of the store over lunch in late February, Friedman recalled.
“My whole life, I’ve wanted to own a record store,” said Friedman, whose personal record collection of 1,000 albums is growing significantly with his new career. He soon began to sense that this was an opportunity be seized. “I said, ‘Marcia, the truth is, it sounds like it’s fortuitous that you and I meet because I would love to find a way to do this,’” he said. “If nobody stepped up, it sounded like [their] best option may [have been] to sell the inventory and, unfortunately, close the door on Pat’s legacy.”
The loyal Culture Clash customer wasn’t about to let that happen.
On March 10 — two weeks after meeting Marcia for the first time — Friedman spoke with comedian Chris Gethard, who hosts a podcast called “Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People.” The premise of the show is that an anonymous caller can talk for an hour about whatever they choose and Gethard cannot hang up on them.
Several minutes into the conversation [listen hear], Friedman revealed that he was facing a life-changing decision: Should he give up his comfortable full-time career in market research— complete with life-stabilizing benefits— to pursue his passion for music and dream job of owning a record store?
Prior to speaking on the podcast, Friedman was trying to determine if buying a record store in 2017 was something he could live with— and if he didn’t buy it, could he live with the regret of not taking advantage of this opportunity?
“I’m not independently wealthy— I work for everything that I have. For me, to take this place, it would mean that I start out in debt… I was trying to wrap my mind around what some numbers would look like, if my wife and I could survive and pay our mortgage while doing this.”
Friedman, who will at least for now maintain part-time status at his employer, Critical Mix, Perrysburg, said doing the podcast helped shed some light and perspective on the situation.
“I think it was just great to have any kind of objective third-party conversation,” he said, noting that Gethard was generally supportive of the decision to chase down his dream job while being realistic about the struggles the move could create.
“By the end of that conversation, it started to feel less like this dream of my teenage self and more like a real possibility and one that I could go the rest of my life not regretting trying.”
Sitting in the store’s back office getting familiar with his new digs, Friedman tries to capture what walking into Culture Clash and his interactions with Pat have meant to him over the years.
“The moment I walked in, his hand shot up in the air to wave, he said ‘Tim, how are you doin’? What are you listening to?’” he recalls. “Pat was a person and he was genuinely interested in so many people in the Toledo area, it’s no wonder there’s been such an outpouring of stories and anecdotes about him, because he was everybody’s friend. Honestly, I’m looking forward to hearing those stories for what could be the rest of my life here.”
While putting his own spin on the record store experience, Friedman knows he doesn’t’ have to re-invent the wheel.
“The first thing that’s important to me is that Culture Clash remains true to what it has been for over a decade,” he said. “I see it continuing in very much the same way where it’s wall-to-wall vinyl. You’ve got new and used records, so whether you need the thing coming out this Friday you’ve heard a song from, we’re going to have it. We’re also going to have the old Dylan record you need to complete your collection. We’re going to have that one record your Dad always talks about so you can get it for his birthday.”
Friedman said it’s important for his store to be a center of the artistic community of Toledo and Northwest Ohio.
“I genuinely feel this buzz of young, passionate entrepreneurs and young, passionate businesses that I want to work with in every way possible,” he said. “I think that a record store, at its core, can and should be, this hub for everything art and music-related in a city.”
Culture Clash is hosting its first in-store performance under Friedman’s ownership on Sunday, May 7 from 3-5pm. The BYOB event will feature Cincinnati’s Us, Today (avant-garde post-rock), and Pittsburgh’s The Spectres (two-piece rock doo-wop trash). See the Facebook event for more info.